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Sally Pearson is Australia's best athlete of the modern era, says Australia's head coach

Sally Pearson's second world championship gold has elevated her to position of the best Australian track athlete of the modern era,says Australia's head coach.

With Olympic gold and silver medals and now two world championship golds and a worlds silver to her name, Pearson stands as the most decorated track athlete and arguably the best overall athlete Australia has produced in the modern era. The world championships began in 1983.

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Sally Pearson wins gold

In the final of the 100 metres womens hurdles it all came together for Sally Pearson as she ran away with it to be crowned champion.

Statistically, Pearson has now won more individual Olympic and world championship medals than 400m champion Cathy Freeman. Pearson and 400m hurdler Jana Pittman are the only two Australian track and field athletes to have won individual world golds. Pittman never won an Olympic medal.

"She's No.1. Unbelievable," Australia coach Craig Hilliard said.

"It's hard to compare eras, I don't think you can, and it would be stupid of me to do that – Betty Cuthbert was a freak. (But) in the current era Sally's right up there with the best, there's no question about that."


Hilliard said it was difficult to overstate what Pearson had overcome to get back to the top of the world. She had missed four years of major world competitions since the 2013 world championships in Moscow where she won silver. She won gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 but those games stand apart from world competition.

She suffered a shattered wrist and had a series of serious calf and Achilles problems as well as hamstring issues that denied her the chance to compete in Rio or the Beijing world championships or her medal haul have could been even greater.

She parted with her long-term coach from her junior days, Sharon Hannan, after she won silver in Moscow. She then had two coaches for brief periods before deciding in August last year – on the first day of the athletics at the Rio Olympics – to coach herself.

"I knew that I could (coach myself), I wasn't worried about writing the program out, I knew what I could and couldn't handle, it was just a matter of 'am I going to do it right? Is this the right person to do it for me? Am I going to be able to listen to my body and be smart about it and look after it?' I just said 'Well, you are going to have to try'.


"I said to myself if it doesn't work out in the first couple of months then we'll have to find someone who can help."

Hilliard said the coaching as well as the injuries marked Pearson's performance as extraordinary.

"That's one of the greatest comebacks in Australian history," he said.

Her husband Kieran agreed, saying Sally amazed him "every day".

"She is the first person to do that," he said of her comeback victory. "Anyone would be impressed, I have just been lucky enough to see the whole journey and all the struggles she has gone through behind the scenes.

"I never doubted it, she knows her body. She has been doing it more than long enough. She has got the determination that whatever she sets her mind to she is going to do it and she is going to do it properly so there were never any doubts about her achieving her dreams."

Hilliard said he always felt world record-holder Kendra Harrison would be vulnerable in the heat of a championship final, especially once she had stumbled in the semi-final.

"I watched what happened at the warm-up track … I watched her warm up out there out of the corner of my eye and they were doing things that I thought were a bit different to what she had normally done as part of her warm-up and I thought there were perhaps a few demons going through her head," Hilliard said.

"The biggest thing for Sally was to come out, get through the heats, she was a little bit nervous that first day, and by her own standard she wanted to run a little bit quicker, that 'third fastest isn't good enough attitude' and then in the semi-final she just made a statement and it was like, don't change anything, just repeat what you have done.

"She warmed up really well and she was just controlled in everything she did, went in, and she just finds another, she's like Cathy Freeman, she finds another 10 per cent. She's just a classic athlete who finds another level. When the bar is raised, she finds it."